When the biggest stars in baseball are gathering in New York for the Major League All-Star Game, one local man will have a unique prospective.
Tunkhannock’s John Belcher is one of 30 veterans — one for each big league ballclub — chosen to be recognized at Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in Major League Baseball and People Magazine’s “Tribute to Heroes” contest.
“I just hope I do a good job of representing the people of Northeastern Pennsylvania and all veterans,” said Belcher, who served in the Marines for nearly 10 years. “These are the biggest shoes I’ve had to fill since leaving the service.
Belcher served as a Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq, winning numerous citations and medals for his bravery in combat situations.
After his discharge, Belcher began a career of helping vets. He worked for a federal government official, and after only a few months was promoted to the office’s Veteran Affairs representative. There he helped more than 600 veterans resolve issues with the Veterans’ Administration and obtain the medals they deserved.
Belcher is currently working in Congressman Lou Barletta’s office, where he continues to help vets. He has also been the veterans service officer with his local American Legion post for the past couple of years.
Belcher gets his chance to be on the field at Citi Field prior to the game because he was nominated to represent the Washington Nationals and then selected to be one of three finalists that fans voted on.
“I got a phone call from a young woman at People and she told me I was nominated,” said Belcher, who graduated from Misericordia University with a degree in government, law and national security.
“I said, ‘Nominated for what?’”
Once he understood the nomination, Belcher said he was honored.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to represent the Marine Corps and all veterans,” Belcher said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Belcher added that he heard that Major League players even helped narrow down some of the nominations.
“I think it’s great that pro ballplayers take the time to saulte our vets,” he said.
That might be so, but the Washington Nationals? Being born and raised in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Belcher can’t be a Nationals fan. Can he?
“I’m a huge Nationals fan,” said Belcher, who was working in Washington when the team moved to town. “When they moved to Washington, they were rock bottom. So I figured no one could give me a hard time if I rooted for them.”
So Belcher will be honored by his favorite team and Major League Baseball on Tuesday night.
But he had some advice on the best way to honor America’s veterans.
“Don’t just say thank you,” Belcher said. “Just reach out and help. Donate. Volunteer. Do something.”